Cameos - History, Value, & Dating

Large cameo on the lower left is likely the oldest. Made in gold fill with a pin that extends past the brooch and does not have a safety. The coral cameo upper middle appears to be from the Art Nouveau period based on the scroll work and symmetry of the mounting.

Large cameo on the lower left is likely the oldest. Made in gold fill with a pin that extends past the brooch and does not have a safety. The coral cameo upper middle appears to be from the Art Nouveau period based on the scroll work and symmetry of the mounting.

Have you ever came across a cameo at an antique store or in your Grandmother’s Jewelry box? They are surprisingly abundant and produced with several different materials, so a great variety of types and motif's exist. The most common material is shell.

So when did the Cameo come to be? In my research I didn’t find a definitive introduction date to the cameo. It is said that they were already popular when Queen Victoria of England ascended the throne. Gaining even more popularity when Pope Leo XII opened a school in Rome focusing on the study of Cameo carving around 1805.

Value

How do you know if you have found a valuable cameo? Stone cameos are typically of greater value compared to those made of shell. The frame in which the cameo is set also affects the price. Cameos are set in sterling silver, gold, gold filled and base metals. Typically more important than the materials used is the carving. The signs of a skilled artisan is intricate details and smooth flowing lines.

Carving Depiction – Scenic cameos are often more valuable than bust cameos.

Dating your Cameo

Getting an exact date on your cameo can be tough, but there are are a few clues that can give you a rough estimation of date created.

  • ·         Cameos carved in Lava Stone are most likely Victorian Era
  • ·         Hair Styles and Clothing Depicted in the carving
  • ·         The pin backing – safety catches were invented in the 20th century

According to C. Jeanenne Bell If a cameo has a safety catch “it is either not older than the early 1900s or a new catch has been added”

Solder present near the safety would be a sign of a safety addition on an older piece.  

Metals

  • ·         9k gold was legalized in 1854
  • ·         Gold electroplating was patented in 1840

Any cameo found set in these metals is post 1840s.

I hope you enjoyed this blog. Look for more estate blogs to come and be sure not to miss our big Estate Event May 13th & 14th, 2017.

-Michaela Taylor

Old Jewelry 1840-1950 8th Edition by C, Jeanenne Bell G. G.